I'm going to say something that, especially in the Northeast this time of year, may turn out to be unpopular.
I love the snow!
That's right. I said it. Sure, my little car is constantly getting stuck in it, it blocks roads and causes traffic, it gets salt all over my jeans and my brand new boots. . . all that is true. But there's something about the way it glistens on tree branches, or how it feels under running shoes or skis, or how it magically ends an argument as a big ball of it is hurled at someone's face that makes snow something I have always loved.
But everybody needs a little time away. . . so for a week this winter, I went to Arizona. (Ironically, I ended up at in a blizzard, and subsequently a snowball fight, at the Grand Canyon. . . but that's another story all together.)
So this is part 1 of my trip to Arizona - Scottsdale. The second part will be everything else. (I'm not sure how it worked out that way either, but trust me, there's a lot more beer in Scottsdale than you may think!)
There was no way I was going all the way to Arizona and not finding some Mexican food! To my delight I found Casa Arriba, an authentic looking place that brews their own beer. They have several Arizona locations, each with a small (emphasizing small here) brewery on site. I ordered a sampler and got a strange look. I thought maybe there was a language barrier. Turns out, they only have two kinds of beer, light and dark. Both are OK, very much like the macro Mexican beers out there. They also encourage you to mix them together and call it Amber. Don't do that. I don't care how hot the food is or how desperate for variety you are. . . don't do that! (And if you do it anyway, don't say you weren't warned.) The highlight of lunch, they also make their own sour cream. I don't think I'll ever be able to eat the regular stuff the same way again! If you don't like sour cream, though I can't imagine why, or if you're lactose intolerant, feel free to skip this place entirely. It didn't offer much more.
I love a good motto. Like my favorite Engineering school's "per aspera ad astra" (from adversity to the stars) or the Marine Corps "Semper Fidelis" . . . I think a motto says a lot about an organization or, in this case, a brewpub. Papago's motto, although maybe unofficially, is "No crap on tap" and they mean it. This place has a ton of regional treasures sprinkled with classics from around the world. Just look at all those taps! They also have four beers of their own (though I think they are contract brewed elsewhere) and about a dozen fridges of bottles for make-your-own six packs. They definitely know their beer here! The place itself is warm and really spacious with tap heads everywhere. Of note were the Orange Blossom which was a great 'non-beer beer' that tasted just like a creamsicle (I think about a dozen growlers were filled of it while I was there) and the Elsie's Milk Stout which they describe as "an Irish car bomb in a glass". Delicious! Also of note, sitting to my left was a Computer Engineer and sitting to my right was a Marine. It didn't bias me toward the beer. . . but it did give the place a few extra points!
So my friend to my left decided that the scene was pretty beat and it was time to move on to Oggi's for "Law Enforcement Night". I didn't think I had heard him correctly. Someone wanting to drink with officers nearby? Nothing against the police of course, it just violates the natural order of things. I come to find out that they just watch 'Cops' and similar shows on TV, which at first blush sounds inane. But think about it, can anything be a better ice breaker between strangers than a tripped out guy without a shirt on getting hauled downtown? It's really quite brilliant! Oggi's has a chain pizza joint feel, nothing to write home about. The people there though are anything but generic and they are not afraid to show it through high fives and raucous laughter encouraged by their weekly tradition. One guy yelled "I think I know that guy" and the crowd went wild. The bartender was also fantastic, welcoming me into the group of regulars even after I admitted I was from New Jersey. The pizza and beer were OK. My beer notes ranged from "pumpkin rind" to "BBQed meat" with some less extreme opinions in the middle. Even still, I'd go back to watch 'Cops' anytime.
After a long night of eating pizza and watching drunken shenanigans on TV, I decided to do something familiar the following day and hit the trusty Rock Bottom. I don't think I've ever been in one at 3 pm on a weekday. I'm not sure I ever will again. The bartender was incredibly cranky and didn't want to talk beer with me at all. Even after I took out the notebook (trust me, this typically makes people a lot more attentive), nothing. My sampler took forever. I wasn't even going to try and order food. Everything I had to drink there I have pretty much had at every other Rock Bottom. There was a Dark Munich lager that I kind of liked. I would have asked if it was location specific. . . but again there were only three people in the place and we were all getting ignored. Then, when I'm just about to finish my very generous Mug Club glass of beer, like two or three sips from done, the bartender comes alive and gets chatty and wants to know if I want any appetizers or anything. Worst pandering to redeem a tip ever!
Now I'm going to do something never before done in my column and 'review' a place where I didn't have any of the beer. That's right, no beer! Pinnacle Peak was having a private party on my last day in Scottsdale and even though a very nice gentleman outside for a smoke let me into the establishment, I couldn't blend in with the all French speaking party well enough to score drinks from the two frustrated female bartenders. So why even mention it? This place was the weirdest place I've ever been in! Keep in mind that last night I was watching 'Cops' with a bar full of strangers and thought nothing of it. The place is literally covered in business cards, license plates and neckties. (Yes, that's what those things are in the picture.) Apparently it's so casual, that if you wear a tie here they cut it off and it becomes decor. In fact "Pinnacle Peak is very serious about its "no necktie" policy and over the past 48 years has cut over a million ties from unsuspecting customers." If you need a momentary break from the strange surroundings, the bathroom isn't going to do it. There are animal backsides (complete with 3D rope tails) painted on the doors of all the stalls further enhancing the "where am I?" feeling that this place exudes.
If you've been there, please write in to email@example.com. After all that, I'd love to know how the beer tastes!
Recommendations for other thirsty travelers? Want more information for your own upcoming adventure? Let me know! :-)
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